Thursday, January 28, 2021
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COVID Updates & Online Learning

A COVID-19 Update from Mercer County

Dear Mercer County Community,

The effort to administer COVID-19 vaccinations here in Mercer County and across the state has been slowed by a lack of vaccine coming to New Jersey from the federal government. We expect that situation to improve in the coming weeks with a new administration in Washington pledging to significantly ramp up vaccine production and distribution. In the meantime, we are facing a supply that falls far short of demand, but we will make sure we use every dose we do receive.

Mercer County has opened a COVID-19 vaccination site at CURE Insurance Arena in partnership with Capital Health, which will manage the site. To get a vaccination at the arena, you must register through the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System at https://covidvaccine.nj.gov. Vaccinations are by appointment only. You will be notified when an appointment becomes available. Beginning Monday, Jan. 25, at 8 a.m., you can call the New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 855-568-0545 to get help with the vaccine scheduling system.

Vaccinations are being administered to those eligible under the state’s phasing plan that prioritizes people most at risk. But again, vaccine supply is extremely limited at this time. Please be patient. For information on vaccination eligibility, locations and more, visit the state’s vaccine website at https://covid19.nj.gov/vaccine.

New Jersey’s goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population – about 4.7 million people – by the end of June. As of Friday morning, almost 429,000 people had received their first of vaccine dose, and 61,588 had received their second, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Even with an increase in supply on the horizon, the vaccination process is expected to take several months. In the meantime, the virus is still active in our community and we can’t get careless when it comes to following precautions. We can’t get out of the habit of wearing our masks, keeping our distance, washing our hands and avoiding large gatherings.

It’s more important than ever that we stay vigilant and do what’s necessary to protect ourselves and those around us while the vaccination process moves forward through the winter and spring. Let’s be patient and continue to support each other. Let’s continue to work together.

Brian M. Hughes

Mercer County Executive

COVID Vaccine Information

Mercer County has opened a vaccination site at CURE Arena in Trenton, in partnership with Capital Health. An extremely limited number of doses are available at this time due to a supply shortage at the federal level. In order to receive your vaccine from Mercer County, you must first register into the state system. No walk-ups can be accommodated at the vaccination site. You will be notified when an appointment becomes available.

To register to receive a vaccine, go to: https://covidvaccine.nj.gov.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 25, at 8 a.m., the New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center can be reached at 855-568-0545.

For information on vaccination eligibility, locations and more, visit the state’s vaccine website at https://covid19.nj.gov/vaccine.

Current COVID-19 vaccination eligibility:

• Paid or unpaid individuals working in a health care setting

• Residents of long-term care facilities and other congregate settings

• Frontline first responders

• Individuals age 65 and older

• Individuals age 16 to 64 who have at least one medical condition, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which increases the risk of severe illness from the virus.

Register Now for Adult School’s Spring Classes

The Princeton Adult School (PAS), whose motto is “Learning Never Ends,” for the spring 2021 semester could expand that motto to “Learning Prevails – Even During a Pandemic.” PAS, offering predominately online and a few in-person COVID-safe classes, presents a selection of 152 creative, challenging, joyful, course offerings that will take your mind off the stress of finding a COVID vaccine and help your intellect, whimsy, and wanderlust to thrive.

Each page of the 40-page catalog extracts an “Oh, I have always wanted to learn about that” reaction from the reader. A very superficial sampling includes:

• Lecture Series on Africa, titled “Up Close and Personal: Africa;”

• History courses, such as “Nineteenth Century America Through the Prism of Five Extraordinary Elections” and closer to home “From Village to Town: The Transformation of Princeton between 1890 and 1910;”

• Writing skills for a variety of personal and professional reasons;

Making objects with the hands – doodling, knitting, jewelry making, woodworking, photography;

• Making music by one’s voice, harmonica, ukulele, piano, mandolin;

• Playing games (bridge, mahjong, chess);

• Improving business and workplace skills;

• And for a breath of fresh air, “Spring Wildflowers;’ “Therapy Walks;” “Nature Walk;” and “Name That Tree.”

To participate in any portion of this exhilarating intellectual journey, please visit www.princetonadultschool.org to register for classes. For assistance, call the office at 609-683-1101.

Lawrence Fireman Makes History of Trenton Firefighting

Michael Ratcliffe

Michael Ratcliffe says that among the numerous photographs in his newly released book, “Trenton Firefighters,” he is mostly fascinated by the old images of horse-drawn engines and steamers.

“It’s hard to imagine how (the firemen) did what they did,” says the journalist-turned-professional Lawrenceville fireman. “The firefighters of the 19th and early 20th century were supermen. They did incredible things with limited resources. It’s a romantic image — steam and horses running, and the risks they took and fires they fought. It must have been something to see.”

Ratcliffe says the work on the book goes back some 20 years when he was a Times of Trenton city desk reporter covering crimes and fires and developed a collegial relationship with the Trenton Fire Department.

According to Ratcliffe, the city’s fire department was participating in a celebratory parade at the start of the millennium, and then-fire chief Dennis Keenan asked him to write a history of the department.

Ratcliffe says he agreed and started collecting and preparing information. But when the event was canceled, the Lawrenceville resident says, “All that research got boxed up and sat up in my attic and gathered dust.”

Trenton firefighters braved freezing temperatures to battle a massive 1948 winter fire that destroyed several downtown businesses.

While out of sight, it wasn’t out of mind, and Ratcliffe says Keenan frequently asked about the information and said it should be put to use.

Ratcliffe says that talk turned to action in late 2018 after he accepted an invitation to join the board of directors of the Meredith Havens Fire Museum, located in the Trenton Fire Department’s headquarters building on Perry Street.

“(Keenan) showed me the archive room at the museum, and I was fascinated. It’s a treasure trove of materials, and you never know what you’re going to find. I got myself interested in the history book again,” Ratcliffe says.

Then in early 2019, he says, “I really started getting into it seriously. That involved going through a lot of the archives in the firehouse and my priority was to get (information) scanned. I started visiting the Trentoniana collection in the Trenton Free Public Library and met (archivist) Laura Poll” — who introduced Ratcliffe to the library’s collection of fire department records and historic photographs.

“For almost an entire year I would go there Tuesday nights and Saturdays. It was amazing that I was holding documents detailing the fires they had back then. It was fascinating.

A deadly 1956 arson destroyed the original Saint Mary’s Cathedral and killed a monsignor and two housekeepers.

“Then COVID-19 hit. It made researching harder, and I thought that it was time to get the book done. It took 18 months of research and six months editing and production.”

The son of a Metuchen volunteer fire department captain says his interest in firefighting “is something that has been around my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are at the firehouse. I was allowed to explore the engine room and climb on the fire trucks. That was my playground. It was always something in my life. I remember the firehouse picnics.”

He says his interest got stronger when after he graduated St. Joseph’s High School and moved to Lawrence to attend Rider University in 1992, and became a volunteer with the Lawrence Fire Department. “That fire service and history has always been with me,” he says, adding, “I came to Lawrence and never left.”

A communications major on a full scholarship, Ratcliffe says he was also attracted to Rider because of the college’s semester abroad program and went to London to study. He also connected with a fire department in East London that welcomed him and allowed him to participate in fire calls.

When he returned to Rider and was continuing to meet his requirements, he mentioned his London firefighter experience to Rider journalism professor Tom Simonet.

Simonet had a close working connection to the editors of the Times of Trenton and encouraged Ratcliffe to write about that experience and offer it to them.

The result was that the editors were interested in a young writer with firefighting experience who could follow the police scanners.

“They put me on the crime beat and got me to cover fires. I got a great appreciation for the Trenton firefighters and wanted to see more. So when nothing was going on at the paper I would go through the microfilm files and start learning about all the larger-than-life-firefighters.”

He also got an appreciation for the paper’s longtime city editor and columnist Harry Blaze. “He and I were on the night time desk. I got to know Harry really well. He taught me how to improve my writing. He was a great guy.”

Ratcliffe’s tenure spans from the summer of 1994 to January of 2009, when the paper began downsizing and offer staff buyouts. “It was a rough time at the end,” he says. “I freelanced for a while and got a job as an editor at the Lawrenceville Patch and got lucky enough to get a full-time job as a firefighter.”

When he returned to researching the book, Ratcliffe says the digitization of information was a great help, but he still needed to depend on old-fashioned detective work and find multiple sources to “pin down” information.

The suspected pre-World War I arson at the Roebling Company’s Buckthorn Plant fire in 1915 is considered the largest blaze in Trenton’s history.

He says between the time he started gathering information in the late 1990s and 2018, when he got serious about creating the book, research became easier, and a combination of digital technology and old fashioned detective work helped him verify facts — like fire department staff changes — through multiple sources.

“I tried to squeeze in as much information in as I could. Those looking into the firefighting industry will find answers in the book,” he says.

Starting with the fact that firefighting in Trenton started before there was a United States and even a City of Trenton, the book uses mainly photographs grouped into eras to tell the story of Trenton’s firefighters.

“I could have taken a different tack and done something other than a chronological approach. But I wanted to give a comprehensive history as space would allow. I had limitations on how much text to use on a page, but I wanted to provide a comprehensive overview of important events and fill out the background of people involved.”

But at times he says he fell short. “The last couple of pages I wish could have been a lot more detailed in the Role of Honor. Several of the people listed do not appear on the memorial in front of city hall. Some of their names are lost. One person was killed by horse-drawn engine wheels and wasn’t recorded. It was important to me to remember the people that were lost.”

He said it was also important to pay tribute to “the early era of firefighting and guys coming on as paid staff. They were on duty all the time. They would live at the firehouse and go to fires, get beat up putting out fires, go back to the firehouse, and then do it all over. It is a testament to their endurance.”

He also wanted to present the dramatic moments of Trenton firefighting history. If one fire can show the drama of Trenton firefighting it is the 1915 Roebling Factory fire — suspected of being part of a pre-World War I German sabotage effort (after the Roebling Company received a U.S. military-related contract).

“It is said to be the worst fire in Trenton’s history,” says Ratcliffe. “From the descriptions in the newspapers, you could see how these guys were behind the eight-ball. It was a wonder they didn’t lose more of the buildings so close to them. There were many fires at the Roebling plant — fires and Roebling went hand-to-hand.”

Ratcliffe says he approached Arcadia Publishing — the company known for its images of America series — because he seen several of their other books on firefighting and thought it would be a good fit.

While the book is dedicated to his father, he says he says he was thinking of all the “firefighters who gave their lives but are forgotten. These guys rescued a lot of people and saved a lot of lives. Their stories should be told.”

Looking ahead to the potential of another book, Radcliffe says, “There is more than enough material to do another volume on Trenton. There are more than enough stories to tell. And maybe I’ll do something on Metuchen, and there is a thought of doing a similar work with Lawrence Township. I can see myself doing another book. My interest is there, and there is more to find.”

The current book is being sold with proceeds going to the Meredith Havens Fire Museum and the Trentoniana Collection.

“Trenton Firefighting,” by Michael Ratcliffe, 128 pages, $21.95, Arcadia Press.

From ‘Trenton Firefighting’

The Union Fire Company displays its new third-class Button steamer in 1872.

Volunteer firefighters had been protecting Trenton for more than four decades by the time the city was made New Jersey’s capital in 1790 (actually, it was just a township back then, not becoming a city until 1792). In fact, organized firefighting here is older than the United States, predating by a generation the Revolution and George Washington’s famous Christmas 1776 crossing of the Delaware River to lead the Continental Army to victory in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton.

It all started on February 7, 1741, when George Elyh, Obadiah Howell, John Hunt, William Plaskett, and Thomas Tindall gathered in a blacksmith’s shop at Queen (later Greene, now Broad) and Front Streets to discuss forming a fire company for Trenton. That night, it was decided that Howell would obtain buckets, fire hooks, ladders, and other equipment, while Ely and Plaskett would draft a constitution for the proposed organization. They reassembled the following evening and chose “union” as their name, both as a nod to the successful fire company of the same name formed in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin in nearby Philadelphia and in recognition of their stated purpose to “better preserve our own and our fellow citizens’ houses, goods, and estates from fire.”

How often those early Trenton firefighters went to work is unknown, as the earliest records of Union Fire Company have been lost. The oldest documents know to still exist — archived in the Trenton Library’s Trentoniana Collection — include a journal of meeting minutes dating to November 14, 1875, and a copy of the company’s constitution from 1792. But thanks to preserved newspapers, it is known that a major blaze struck Trenton on January 30, 1772. Starting in the home of merchant Dunlap Adams and fanned by a stiff wind that sent embers showering upon neighboring roofs, the fire rapidly spread, and for a time, it was feared the entire town might be consumed. In the end, at least six dwellings and many outbuildings and stables were destroyed.

In the aftermath of that blaze, concerned Trentonians led by Rensselaer Williams met on April 2, 1772, and organized a new fire company. Taking the name Hand-In-Hand, members immediately set out equipping themselves with two leather buckets each and other tools for use in extinguishing small fires and salvaging property from blazes that could not be controlled. The Union, meanwhile, sought to improve on the bucket brigade firefighting method by purchasing its first fire engine in 1772, a small hand-tub model built in Philadelphia that was reportedly operated by just two men. A larger engine, also built in Philadelphia, was later purchased by the Union around 1786.

Another fire company, the Restoration, is said to have been formed sometime after the Union’s organization but prior to the Hand-In-Hand’s. No records exist for Restoration Fire Company itself, but surviving Hand-In-Hand documents show that the Restoration surrendered its engine to the Hand-in-Hand in 1779 on condition the latter repair and maintain the apparatus until such time that the Restoration should reorganize. However, a revival of the Restoration never happened.

City Liaison Connects Trenton’s LGBTQ Community

Rick Kavin, LGBTQ liaison for the City of Trenton, in his office in City Hall.

Rick Kavin sits at his desk in his second floor office of Trenton City Hall and readies to talk about his small place in city history — Trenton’s first LGBTQ Liaison.

“(The position) was created in June,” says Kavin, who voluntarily bundles the non-budgeted liaison duties into his $65,000-per-year full-time job as an aide to Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.

Kavin says over the past several months he has been collecting resources to support the city’s LGBTQ community members — many of whom experience general urban problems related to homelessness and addiction but with additional problems related to bias and bullying.

Although Trenton has no hard statistics regarding the city’s LGBTQ population, partially because current census reporting excludes information on sexual orientation, Kavin says the city is using a working formula that estimates between 7 to 12 percent of any given area of citizenship can be classified as LGBTQ.

He also says gathering data is sometimes complicated by other social factors. “In some areas people are open about their orientation, but people of color may not be as open.”

Part of the reason is that some community members are in social environments that makes them tentative about being openly gay. Additionally LGBTQ youths who “come out” are sometimes disowned by their families, become homeless, and need support services.

Continuing on the topic of Trenton’s younger LGBTQ community, Kavin says, “I’ve been surprised by how many students have reached out to me about problems at home. Right now, during COVID, there are very few recreational activities. Safe havens for students were taken away. Staying at home in an unsupportive and violent environment has been a challenge.”

Although New Jersey is a “good place” for LGBTQ people in general, he says there needs to be more support for homeless LGBTQ youth.

According to Kavin, the project’s growing network of support includes the Trenton Rescue Mission, City of Trenton Health Department, and the Trenton Free Public Library, which he calls “one of the most helpful resources. I’m the mayor’s liaison with them. We have been putting together community conversations that deal with the LGBT population and HIV and created a social justice corner that includes materials. We’re also talking about HIV testing and community programs. This would be down the road after COVID.”

Planned Parenthood and the Hyacinth Foundation, an HIV service provider located on West State Street, are also mentioned.

Kavin says his involvement as a board member of the Highland Park-based Pride Center of New Jersey, an all-volunteer nonprofit self-described as “dedicated to the health and well-being of all individuals in the LGBTQ community,” and as a political science graduate student and instructor of LGBTQ rights at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, provided the proper foundation for his community liaison duties.

An Eagleton Institute of Rutgers work scholarship brought him to Trenton in the summer of 2019. “I came in the summer and then started as a full-time employee. It was a great fit.”

The now-Trenton resident says the following about his background: “I grew up in the Woodbridge area and moved out to Hunterdon County and went to North Hunterdon County High School.”

He says he also attended Boston University, where he pursued a double major in psychology and anthropology and spent time teaching English in South Korea and then Honduras.

“I ended up coming back to New Jersey and did my master’s in political science at Rutgers in Newark and decided to keep going to pursue my Ph.D. (in New Brunswick).

“My mom just retired as a special education teacher. My dad passed away when I was 15. My stepdad ran a sandwich shop in New Brunswick, Jersey Subs, right on George Street He’s happily retired, but (the shop) is still going, even during COVID. I worked there in my college years on breaks and even while doing my master’s. It was a great part-time job.”

Kavin says his interest in political science was sparked when he was teaching abroad and saw “how different programs and initiatives worked in different places. In South Korea schools are very regimented. Students work hard and parents oversee them. In Honduras, it is different. I was looking at where those policies came from and worked.

“There were also elections that took place. I saw that they were so different and asked what the U.S. could learn from them.”

His interest in LGBTQ support came from “existing very publicly as an out person — as I do in all my roles. I’m just a person coming to work, but I am publicly defined by who I am.”

He says one of the biggest challenges of his City of Trenton job was making the transition from “academia to on-the-ground politics — serving a municipal government. It has been learning experience. Coming from a theoretical environment and studying and then dealing with on-the-ground realities is different than discussing and writing about them as a removed person. At the same time it gives me a pretty unique perspective, and I come in with some theoretical knowledge of what worked in other places and situations in other locations. I have been lucky here to be guided by people who have been successful in their fields and having those perspectives has been helpful to move the city forward.”

To create the Trenton LGBTQ liaison office model, Kavin says he has taken ideas “from other municipalities in New Jersey and other places. I have talked to people in Newark and Asbury Park. A colleague of mine has had a similar role in Massachusetts. And she’s been helpful regarding challenges and programs. She has been a great resource to develop a template for Trenton.”

Asked about how an office dealing with sexuality and gender fits into a larger picture of need, Kavin says while most people talk about racism, sexism, and ageism, they do not understand that sexual orientation is also protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, something reinforced in by the June 2020 Supreme Court Case Bostov v. Clayton County.

“This is the most important case for LBGT since the marriage equality case. This opens the door for future cases, such as health care. I think you’re going to see more cases coming before the courts,” he says.

Kavin adds that part of the decision to create the position is because grants are available. “Some of them are smaller grants and directed towards initiatives. Because the program exists, we can apply for that kind of money.”

And since grant funds are dedicated to one project, it doesn’t compete with other funding needs. “As we have seen, some of the problems overlap,” he says.

Kavin says some assistance is also coming from Trenton clergy members who have “reached out to me to explain what services they offered, shelters and safe places for youth. Even though there can be tension between religion and sexual orientations, the churches here have been active in addressing problems.”

And while one Trenton city council member recently made national news for making biased remarks against Trenton’s openly gay mayor, Kavin says, “We want to create an environment of inclusion. Any person using a type of speech like that should be held accountable. City hall has been supportive. Trenton is a more welcoming community than people will give credit for.”

Rick Kavin, City of Trenton, Office of the Mayor. 609-989-3052 or rkavin@trentonnj.org.

The Future of Food in the Garden State

Justin Allen, urban agriculture coordinator at Isles, Inc. in Trenton.

The ground may be frozen, but the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey — the Lambertville-based group that supports organic food and agriculture in New Jersey — has its eyes on the coming of spring and new growth. The nonprofit hosts its 31st annual winter conference on Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The theme for this year’s conference, held in an all-virtual format, is “The Future of New Jersey’s Food System.” Register online at www.nofanj.org. Cost: $50; $35 for members; $15 for students and veterans.

The two-day event features a full roster of guest speakers representing farms, academia, and policymakers.

The opening keynote on Saturday morning comes from Charles Rosen, the founder of Ironbound Cider and New Ark Farms, which mixes farming and social enterprise.

Rosen, a former lawyer, ad agency owner, and movie producer now runs an apple farm with several important missions. The farm is at once a tribute to New Jersey history — Newark was known for its hard cider production in the 18th and 19th centuries — and also a model of a civically engaged company.

The farm’s website states that Ironbound “was founded on the belief that businesses must take responsibility for the impact they have on the social, economic, and ecological well-being of their communities. To that end, we fully embrace the beauty, abundance, and diversity of our state; our obligation to lift up the most underserved members of the community — especially the chronically underemployed; and, our role in environmental repair through our regenerative farming practices.”

On Saturday afternoon the focus turns to urban agriculture, with a panel titled “Growing in Urban Jersey.” Among the panelists is Justin Allen, the urban agriculture coordinator at Isles, Inc., in Trenton. The nonprofit’s urban agriculture work includes support for more than 70 school and community gardens and garden-based education for schools and summer programs.

Isles also operates the Tucker Street Garden, which serves as a training site for gardeners but also produces crops that are sold at affordable prices at Trenton’s Greenwood Avenue Farmers’ Market.

Allen is a graduate of Bergen Community College and Rutgers with a degree in nutritional science and a certificate in food systems education and administration. He previously worked with the Greater Newark Conservancy and with HealthBarn USA’s healthy lifestyle education program.

Other topics of discussion on Saturday include “Preserving and Expanding Crop Diversity,” “Indigenous Seeds and Food Sovereignty,” and “Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise.” Saturday’s programming concludes with a closing keynote by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark.

Sunday’s programming includes remarks from David Robinson, a Rutgers climatologist and geographer who has served as the state climatologist for the past 26 years. In that role, he works with communities for whom an understanding of climate is essential — and farmers are primary among those.

Robinson’s remarks on “New Jersey’s Changing Climate” will be followed by a talk on “Climate Smart Farming” by Jacqueline Ricotta, a NOFA-NJ board member and professor of plant science and public policy at Delaware Valley University.

Other sessions on Sunday include “A Small Farm Future,” “The Carbon Farming Solution, Perennial Crops, and Regenerative Agriculture,” and “No Till Organic Farming.”

The closing keynote will be delivered by farmer and NOFA-NJ president Mike Rassweiler, the founder of North Slope Farm in Lambertville.

Visit the website at www.nofanj.org for a full schedule of speakers and other events.

A ‘Green Energy’ Job Future for New Jersey

In his State of the State address on January 12, Governor Phil Murphy pledged to help New Jersey emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic “stronger, fairer, and more resilient than before.”

The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on New Jersey, and swift, expansive vaccinations will be one of the governor’s top priorities in pulling the state out of this health crisis. Dealing with associated economic damage, including staggering job losses and business closings, is another administration priority.

But reviving the economy and creating new jobs presents a major challenge. Fortunately, the move to clean, renewable “green” energy will provide a huge boost to job creation. For example, Governor Murphy highlighted the development of a new offshore wind port in Salem County and a new manufacturing facility for offshore wind in Paulsboro that will create an estimated 2,000 good-paying, union jobs.

A coalition of conservation groups recently wrote to the governor, asking him to prioritize funding for environmental protection, clean energy, and sustainable “green” jobs in the fiscal year 2022 budget. Here are some examples of “green investments” with potential to bring significant job growth, and economic, environmental, and public health benefits to this state we’re in:

Clean energy — New Jersey’s clean energy economy already supports about 51,000 jobs, including 34,000 in energy efficiency. Many more will be coming as New Jersey works to reach its goal of having 100 percent of its energy come from clean, renewable sources by 2050.

Research shows that wind and solar projects generate about 13 jobs per million dollars of investment, significantly higher than coal, oil, and natural gas projects. Retrofitting buildings for clean and efficient energy offers a massive opportunity. Jobs retrofitting buildings are always local, can’t be exported, and can be targeted in communities with older, less energy efficient housing.

Another plus: workers in clean energy earn well above the national average. To fully capture the job benefits of clean energy, the state must abandon its bad habit of diverting money from the Clean Energy Fund to plug budget holes.

Improve water and community infrastructure — Many communities of color in New Jersey are served by aging water systems plagued with leaking pipes and lead and chemical contamination. On top of that, many older homes in these same communities contain lead paint, a threat to public health. Addressing these problems should be a priority. Research shows that investing in lead removal results in significant savings on special education, criminal justice and health care.

To spur the green economy and ensure environmental justice, the state should provide robust funding for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s water programs, and prioritize funding for lead remediation. The Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund should be swiftly returned to its original purpose — removing lead-based paint from residential housing — so remediation projects can get under way to protect children and other vulnerable populations from lead poisoning.

Build resilience to climate disasters — Climate change poses a direct economic risk to New Jersey. Severe weather, flooding, and other climate impacts have become more common, threatening lives and costing millions in property damage. The state must continue to support programs, projects, and policies that make the state more resilient to flooding and other climate change impacts.

Nature-based solutions, such as planting forests that soak up flood water, can prevent property damage. For every dollar invested in “green infrastructure,” an average of $7 is saved from reduced flooding risk. This is a great investment, as New Jersey is one of the states with the most to lose — over $4.5 billion in coastal real estate alone.

Fund parks and trails — During the pandemic, New Jerseyans are relying on parks and trails more than ever. But not all communities have access to open space, especially in urban areas, and many existing parks are not safe, accessible, or inviting. Significant investments are needed in adding more parks as well as park improvements and amenities.

Outdoor recreation in New Jersey contributes $17.8 billion in consumer spending, $6.1 billion in wages and salaries, $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue annually, as well as 158,000 jobs. Accessible and safe parks help reduce asthma and childhood obesity rates, and significantly raises property values. The administration must fully fund the state’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, which provides tax relief for municipalities that host state open space lands which become tax exempt upon preservation.

Improve public transportation — A good public transportation system takes cars off the road and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But New Jersey Transit has been forced to raid its capital budget to meet its operating needs. This has resulted in a dilapidated system riddled with delays, cancellations, inadequate service, and some of the highest fares in the country. These capital budget raids hinder the agency’s ability to modernize and upgrade the fleet and reduce emissions. Investing in New Jersey Transit would create jobs; an analysis by the American Public Transportation Association found that about 49,700 jobs are created for every $1 billion invested in public transportation.

New Jersey is primed for moving to a clean and green renewable energy future combined with solid and sustainable good paying job growth. Let’s all get behind investments in clean energy, clean water, public transportation, parks and trails, and a healthier and more prosperous state for all.

And for information on preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources — including parks and trails — visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact info@njconservation.org.

Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Business Meetings January 27 to February 3

Wednesday, January 27

Princeton Community Works. www.princetoncommunityworks.org. Fully virtual conference features three days of workshops for volunteers, boards, and staff of nonprofit organizations. 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Business After Business Virtual Networking, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. Re-engage with chamber friends for a fun evening of virtual networking, cocktails and connections from your home. Attendees have the opportunity to present a 30-second commercial and participate in breakout discussion groups. Register. $25; $15 members. 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 28

2021 Central NJ Real Estate Forecast, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. Network and hear projections for the year ahead. Keynote presentations by Peter Linneman, founding principal, Linneman Associates, and Danielle Hale, chief economist, Realtor.com. Princeton region forecast by Joan Docktor, president, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS; and Thomas Romano, managing director, JLL. Register. $45; $35 members. 1 p.m.

Networking Through LinkedIn, Princeton SCORE. princeton.score.org. Cecilia Jackson, owner of Forte Consulting, presents tips on networking through LinkedIn including how to create a profile, brand yourself, create your company page, and more. Register. Free. 6:30 p.m.

Friday, January 29

JobSeekers, Professional Service Group of Mercer County. www.psgofmercercounty.org. Recruiting specialist and career coach Yolanda M. Owens shares strategies for completing and submitting applications that will get past the automatic application systems and help you find success. 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Tuesday, February 2

JobSeekers. sites.google.com/site/njjobseekers. Virtual meeting for those seeking employment. Visit website for GoTo Meeting link. 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

 

Off the Presses, at the Library: Slavery in New Jersey

Rick Geffken

The Pennington Public Library will put a spotlight on slavery in New Jersey with a Zoom discussion led by “Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” author Rick Geffken on Sunday, January 31, at 3 p.m.

The co-author of “Highland Beach, Gateway to the Jersey Shore, 1888-1962” and “Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore,” Geffken is a trustee of the Shrewsbury Historical Society; a member of the Monmouth County Historical Association; past-president and a trustee of the Jersey Coast Heritage Museum at Sandlass House; and a former Hewlett-Packard sales executive.

His “Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” was released in January by The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing.

In the following excerpt from his book’s introduction, Geffken quickly sets up the often neglected reality of slavery in New Jersey and provides a preview of his Pennington Library presentation:

This is a book of stories about Black people enslaved by white people in New Jersey. If that’s a hard statement to read, it was equally difficult for me to discover this truth so late in my life. Living in the Garden State for over seven decades now, I’m incredulous that I knew nothing about slavery for most of them. I don’t think the good Sisters of St. Francis, or the Jesuits – teachers who bookended my formal education — were hiding any of this awful history. I want to believe they didn’t know about it either.

Slavery was “baked into” New Jersey from its very beginnings. In the 1664-65 “Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey,” Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret granted prospective colonists 75 acres of land “for every weaker servant, or slave, male or female, exceeding the age of 14 years, which any one shall send or carry, arriving there.” Meant to jumpstart a new agricultural community, this provision of one of New Jersey’s founding documents nonetheless made chattel slavery foundational.

Perhaps the first slave law was the one passed by the Elizabeth-Town General Assembly in 1668. Designed to protect white slave owners from losing their human property, its terms were stark: (If) any man shall willfully or forcibly steal away any mankind (read slave), he shall be put to death.”

What followed were decades of increasingly restrictive rules and regulations controlling the behavior of people enslaved in New Jersey. As the Black population increased — peaking at over 12,000 at the turn of the 19th century — white slaveholders lived in escalating fear that their slaves would rebel and avenge their oppressive treatment. Sometimes they did.

Laws were passed that sought to control slaves through the application of severe physical penalties — deformities, burnings, hangings — for even minor infractions. Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read and write, to travel without proper papers or passes or to own firearms or real estate. Harsh punishments were not only doled out to offending slaves but often to their owners as well.

New Jersey’s slave laws were often about revenue generation and economic growth and less about enlightened moral positions. For instance, a 1714 statute imposed a 10-pound duty on each imported slave. It was designed to bring in more white servants by making it more expensive to bring in slaves — not to discourage slavery. In any event, there were workarounds to avoid the tax; slaves were imported into other colonies and then brought to New Jersey. A few decades later, duties like this were discouraged so more Black slaves could relieve labor shortages.

Other New Jersey slave laws were actually disincentives. A 1713 change to the slave code addressing the manumission of slaves required a burdensome security deposit of 200 pounds and an additional 20 pounds annually to support the freed person for life. Few slaveholders could afford this payment, which was equivalent to over $50,000 and $5,000 today.

New Jersey grappled with slavery agonizingly slowly. A 1786 law imposed a penalty of 50 pounds for anyone who had brought slaves from Africa after 1776. It called importation a “barbarous custom of bringing the unoffending Africans from the native country.” Two years later, it was amended, and strengthened, by adding forfeiture of slave ships and their cargo. But the law didn’t abolish slavery. On and on it went for years, depending on labor needs and with little regard for the Black human beings forced to generate profits and to provide easier lives for the white people in charge.

At the national level, there was at least one missed opportunity involving New Jersey. When the newly triumphant United States was forming a government after the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson proposed banning slavery in expansion territories. On April 23, 1784, New Jersey delegate Dr. John Beatty, who agreed with Jefferson, was sick and missed the final vote on the issue. The slavery provision never made it into the Ordinance of 1784.

In 1804, New Jersey passed the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. This was an attempt to address both the interests of those who depended on enslaved people and their opponents in the growing abolition movement. It mandated that slaves born after July 4, 1804, had to serve for 25 years before manumission and females for 20 years. The act was a compromise, as if there could ever be legal balance to America’s original sin. It was a sad admission that some people insisted that their survival depended on human “machines” to grow and harvest their crops, to build their houses, to take care of their children, and to perform every demeaning task imaginable.

The New Jersey State Constitution of 1844 declared that “all men are by nature free and independent.” As favorable as this sounded to slaves and abolitionists, a year later, the state supreme court ruled that this was only “a general proposition,” and it didn’t apply to “man in his private, individual, or domestic capacity . . . or to interfere with his domestic relations.” In effect, the highest court in New Jersey said the “free and independent” only applied to white men. Once again, New Jersey refused to outlaw slavery.

The 1846 Act to Abolish Slavery, as good as its title sounded, merely changed the description of the subjugated from “slaves” to “apprentices for life.” It did, however, allow that children born to slaves thereafter “shall be absolutely free from their birth.” How many slaves were affected is difficult to know. Though the next two federal census reports showed decreasing numbers of slaves in New Jersey, the numbers were deceptive because they did not list “apprentices.”

Just before the Civil War, the New Jersey census listed 18 slaves. (The actual number was probably a bit higher). When the war fought over slavery ended, New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery — reluctantly. Our legislature agreed to ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in January 1866, only after the required three-fourths of the existing 36 states had already done so. New Jersey, which hadn’t supported Abraham Lincoln in the elections of 1860 and 1864, shrugged and went along with the fait accompli.

Finally, as if these failures to correct this historic crime against humanity weren’t enough, in 1868, New Jersey withdrew its ratification of the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship and equal protection to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves.

In 2007, 140 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, the New Jersey Legislature passed a resolution expressing “profound regret for the State’s role in slavery” and apologized “for the wrong inflicted by slavery and its effects in the United States of America.” This was remarkably late considering that New Jersey was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789.

Note: I started writing this book before George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day 2020. His death and those of other Black men and women closer to home are the direct results of the shamefully long aftertaste of slavery. I see hope that the resultant national protests will change how we live together everywhere in this country.

“Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” by Rick Geffken, 208 pages, $21.99, The History Press. The Pennington Public Library’s Zoom presentation by Geffken is set for Sunday, January 31, 3 p.m., Free. Registration Required. Details at www.penningtonlibrary.org/slaverystoriesnj.

 

On the Move: Grants, Management Moves, and More

Grants Awarded

The Burke Foundation, a Nassau Street-based grantmaking organization focused on improving the lives of children, has announced the awarding of strategic grants supporting the maternal and child health and early childhood development ecosystems.

Several Mercer County-area groups were among the recipients.

In collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, the foundation is launching Family Connects in Mercer County, the first postnatal universal home-visiting pilot in the state.

Burke awarded $500,000 to Trenton Health Team to launch this evidence-based model for all parents who deliver at Capital Health, where most women in Trenton give birth. The pilot aims to serve about 1,900 families over three years and improve care coordination and health outcomes at a population level.

A grant of $200,500 went to the Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund and Trenton-based agency Child Care Connection to conduct a mapping analysis of supply and demand for child care in Mercer County. These activities will generate a deep understanding of the barriers to accessing and providing high-quality care for infants and toddlers along with actionable strategies to improve access to quality child care for families.

The Foundation for Educational Administration, based in Monroe Township, was awarded a $180,000 grant to develop and advance a new model for a healing-centered education system in New Jersey. FEA is working with a coalition of education and mental health organizations, public agencies, community members and funders to launch this pilot initiative in 25 New Jersey public schools in early 2021.

The Burke Foundation also granted $300,000 to the Boston-based Centering Healthcare Institute; $91,722 to Reach Out and Read New Jersey; $300,000 to Mount Sinai Parenting Center to create a Parent Video Series; and $200,000 to support Montclair State University’s Center for Autism & Early Childhood.

The Burke Foundation, 90 Nassau Street, Fifth Floor, Princeton 08542. James Burke, president. www.burkefoundation.org.

Leases Signed

Matrix Development Group, which operates the Matrix Corporate Campus on Prospect Plains Road in Cranbury, announced two lease renewals at the complex.

Insurance company AmeriHealth signed for 35,061 square feet, and Nano-Ditech Corp., a manufacturer of rapid immuno-diagnostic products, signed for 15,450 square feet. Both leases were three-year extensions.

Matrix’s 13-building, 345,000-square-foot campus has an occupancy rate of 88 percent.

New Grants to Support Clean Tech

The New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology (CSIT) has launched a $750,000 Clean Tech Seed Grant Program for early stage, New Jersey-based clean technology companies.

Grants of up to $75,000 will be awarded to aid in accelerating the development and innovation of clean technologies. The program is a partnership with the state Board of Public Utilities and Economic Development Authority, with funds coming from the BPU’s Clean Energy Program.

“New Jersey is ripe with young, innovative companies that have the potential to upend the current global clean technology marketplace,” CSIT Chairman Gunjan Doshi said in a statement.

The program seeks to fund projects in areas including: chemicals/advance materials; energy distribution/storage; energy efficiency; energy generation; green buildings; transportation; waste processing; and water and agriculture.

Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, February 8. The program will accept a maximum of 50 applications through April 5.

For more information or to apply visit www.njeda.com/about/Public-Information/CSIT.

Management Moves

Raymond Brandes

The New Jersey Hospital Association announced two additions to its senior leadership team: chief operating officer Raymond Brandes and chief financial officer Christopher Bailey.

Brandes was most recently vice president of public affairs, population health, and strategic planning at University Hospital in Newark. He was previously deputy chief of staff under Governor Chris Christie. He earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Rutgers University.

At NJHA Brandes fills a newly created role in which he will oversee the association’s daily operations, including responsibility for administration, communications, facilities, IT, and NJHA Healthcare Business Solutions.

“It is an honor to be a part of this important organization, especially at this critical time as we focus on the road back from COVID-19,” Brandes said in a statement. “I look forward to providing the high level of service that our members expect from NJHA, and working to improve the health of all New Jersey citizens.”

Christopher Bailey

Bailey was most recently assistant vice president of the Rutgers Financial Management unit at RWJBarnabas Health. He also served as assistant vice president of financial planning and budgeting at Rutgers University. He previously served in the New Jersey Department of Human Services, first as the chief financial officer, and then in the dual role of chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Bailey graduated from LaSalle University with a bachelor’s in finance and earned a master of public administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He replaced CFO Dave Lavins, who retired in December.

New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA), 760 Alexander Road, Box 1, Princeton 08543. 609-275-4000. Cathleen Bennett, president & CEO. www.njha.com.

CytoSorbents Corporation has named David D. Cox as vice president – global regulatory affairs. The Monmouth Junction-based company is the creator of CytoSorb, a blood purification technology that treats deadly inflammation in critically ill and cardiac surgery patients.

Cox was most recently vice president of regulatory affairs for tissue and regenerative technologies at Integra LifeSciences Corporation in Plainsboro. He previously worked in regulatory affairs for several medial device manufacturers.

He earned his bachelor’s in chemistry from Bethel College, an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, and a PhD in bio-inorganic chemistry from the University of Minnesota.

CytoSorbents Inc. (CTSO), 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite K, Monmouth Junction 08852. 732-329-8885. Phillip Chan, CEO. www.cytosorbents.com.

Merger

Trenton-based marketing agency EFK Group has merged with Newark-based Winning Strategies. The combined company will be known as EFK group and maintain offices in Trenton and Newark.

EFK Group CEO Eleanor Kubacki will lead the new company, and Karen Geisel, who has extensive leadership experience with PR firms in New Jersey, will join as managing partner for public relations. Jim McQueeny, the founder and chairman of Winning Strategies, will serve as a senior adviser.

“There is tremendous growth potential for EFK now that we have joined forces with Winning Strategies,” Kubacki said in a statement. “It allows our growing firm to be even more competitive when it comes to winning national clients. The synergies between both organizations were strong, and following an extended period of successful collaboration, the merger made sense as a logical next step.”

EFK Group, 1027 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton 08611. 609-393-5838. Eleanor Kubacki, founder and chief executive officer. www.efkgroup.com.

Special Appointment

Michael Kahme

Michael Kahme, managing partner of the Roszel Road-based law firm Hill Wallack LLP, has been installed as president-elect of the Mercer County Bar Association for a one-year term. The Hamilton-based professional group serves as a resource for its members and aims to educate the public on legal matters.

Kahme has been active in the Mercer County Bar Association since 1985 and has previously served as trustee, secretary, treasurer, and vice president. He is a member of Hill Wallack’s creditors’ rights/bankruptcy and corporate law practice groups. He earned his law degree at the University of Miami Law School.

“I take great pleasure in continuing my service to the Mercer County Bar Association,” Kahme said in a statement. “More than ever, in the present circumstances, our members are immense resources for one another in determining how to address some of the challenges that our clients, and we as professionals are facing.”

Hill Wallack LLP, 21 Roszel Road, Princeton 08540. 609-924-0808. Michael Kahme, managing partner. www.hillwallack.com.

Mercer County Bar Association, 1245 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Whitehorse Executive Center, Suite 420, Mercerville 08619. 609-585-6200. Samantha Iraca, executive director. www.mercerbar.com.

Deaths

Walter G. Bittner, 90, on January 21. He worked for Johnson Controls and was a past president of the Trenton Engineers Club.

Charles A. Commini, 95, on January 21. He ran Commini’s Italian Restaurant in Trenton with his brother for more than 50 years.

Barbara Doriety, 82, on January 22. She was a receptionist at Helene Fuld Hospital in Trenton for 25 years.

Maureen Anne Sullivan, 82, on December 13, 2020. She worked at Carnegie Center-based Pharmanet for more than 14 years.

Francis Richard McDonald, 70, on January 15. He was president and owner of McDonald Construction Corporation in Cranbury.

Jeffrey Lionel Gossman, 91, on January 11. He was a professor of romance languages and literatures, emeritus, at Princeton University.